Hakone Checkpoint.

The Hakone Sekisho

There were five main routes in Japan during the Edo period. The Tōkaidō route (東海道, East Sea Road) connected Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto and was considered the most important route used.Hakone Seshiko.

There were fifty-three rest posts or sekisho, stationed along the Tōkaidō route, sanctioned by the Japanese government for amenities like horse stables and places for food and lodging.

Hakone Seshiko. | : : Ys [waiz] : :

The post stations represent the 53 Buddhist saints that Sudhana visited to receive his teachings for enlightenment. Travel regulations required people to present travel permits at various checkpoints.

The sekisho also known as “toll barriers”, controlled the traffic of people and goods on the highways as checkpoints. Hakone’s sekisho formed the border of the Kantō region and was a major waystation for the people who were travelling along the Tōkaidō route from Kyoto to Edo.

Hokaido toll barrier, Japan.

Checkpoints were particularly strict on controlling iri-deppo ni de-on’na, or “guns coming and women going.”

Hokaido toll barrier, Japan. | Jennifer Pack

Sekisho’s prevented the the capital offense of smuggling of muskets into Edo, as well as the sneaking in of daimyo wives who were compelled to live in the capital as hostages in order for their husbands to follow the strict rules of the government.

In 1869, the Japanese government abolished and abandoned all sekisho in 1869. The once thriving Hakone Seshiko was left to deteriorate until 1923 when Japan designated it as a National Historic Site. Careful study through a series of archaeological digs were done from 1999 to 2001 to evaluate the Edo period records of Hakone to be able to create an almost exact replica of the original checkpoint that stood in the site.

Hakone Checkpoint.

The now completed reconstruction of the Hakone Checkpoint site is made up of two gates, guardhouses, wooden buildings, a stable and a museum that houses the history of the area. Visiting the once bustling seshiko is like travelling back in time.

Hakone Checkpoint.